Fresher than Fresh: A New Tulip


This week’s Daily Post photo challenge, fresh, comes just in time for spring. There’s a little bit of rain falling, just enough to get things a little misted, and it changes everything. The dull dustiness of early spring — there’s no real color yet — covers everything in pollen. A little rain freshens things up again. The grass is just starting to wake up, and while there are lots and lots of flowers blooming, leaves and leftover wintry shrubs still dot the landscape.

dandelionThe scent of spring, wet and fresh, fills my nostrils and transports me back to my childhood. The honeysuckle isn’t in bloom yet, but oh boy — soon. Soon!

I admit that my tastes, and my wallet, have matured a little and I can indulge myself in the beauty of tulips, but I have a confession to make ….

This is my favorite sign of spring.

Post A Day: Back to Life

Today’s interesting challenge poses the question: what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

The preface establishes scenarios — a long flight, a grueling week. The suggestion that something has worn us out physically. The answer is rather dull: I take a nice hot shower. It feels good to be clean — to feel the grime washed away. There’s something to be said for the sensual pleasure of hot water flowing over me.

Nevertheless, I’d rather focus on the depth of the question: what makes me feel human? And perhaps of more interest, what could possibly have the effect of zapping my humanity?

I feel least human when I refuse to acknowledge the humanity of others. I can spend my day never making eye contact, never listening with my heart, never getting emotionally invested in the events happening right next to me.

I have become an expert in disassociating myself from the feelings of those around me. The sad part of that is that I lose a piece of my humanity along the way.

I have to allow myself to feel to get it back. I need to love. I need to love, not just those who love me back, but those who are difficult to love, too. The demanding family member. The obnoxious neighbor. The uncooperative colleague.

I need to learn to love like God loves.

And I need to allow myself to cry, whether it’s in grief or gratitude, joy or anger, appreciation or frustration. It’s an amazing catharsis to cry – to express through tears a multitude of emotions.

What could be more human than that?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

20140411-121359.jpgThis is Otis. He’s a noble puppy. Obedient. Gentle, unless he feels the immediate need to jump on you and lick you to death.

I exiled him to the office so I could clean in the kitchen, but he wanted so badly to be with me, and obey the command to stay in the office, that he tried to do a little of both. He figured he could stay and put his front paws past the threshold into the forbidden kitchen.

I feel like that these days. I’m quite comfortable where I am in my life. You could say I’m comfortable with the known.

Yet, the unknown beckons. It’s not about thinking the grass is greener elsewhere, but that I’m being called to do more. In my personal life, to finish a project that has consumed me for many years. Professionally, to take some risks and perhaps cast a wider net. Spiritually, to go deeper in my faith.

Like Otis, I’m taking some tentative steps, crossing the threshold into something new, not forbidden — on the contrary, designed just for me. I just need to stop looking around the corner and do it.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection


This week’s photo challenge intrigued me. I knew right away I wanted to do it, but time, and inspiration, and frankly, a picture, kept me waiting for the right moment.

reflectionI finally got it this afternoon. I live by a small lake, so the easy photo was to take a little walk down there and see what the water was reflecting. I love those kinds of pictures, but I took to heart the other part of the challenge, to see a little into my soul and wonder what it reflects.

If nothing else, the challenge had me pondering this throughout the week. I think we don’t ponder things enough. Our microwave-hurry-up-ding-fries-are-done mindset doesn’t make time for that essential need.

So I pondered. Reflected, if you will.


The picture above is a reflection of the top of a tree on a very small, thin puddle on my patio. I took the picture right side up, but the tree is reflected upside down. Like an old style photograph view finder.

Here’s the thing, I know it’s a tree, but it looks like a root system. I’ve been thinking about this all day. What is my root system? What is my foundation?

And is it reflected in my bearing?





Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective…and reality “Hic sunt dracones”


That’s Latin for “Here be dragons.”

In case you’re wondering, “Hic fugiens scutellas” means “here be flying saucers.” I’m just all full of useful Latin, aren’t I? Thanks, Google.

But let’s go back to the dragons, shall we? I first saw “here be dragons” in a history book. You’ve probably seen it, too, and didn’t know what it meant. I remember looking at old maps of the world — the cartography incomplete and a little off, and seeing sea monsters and serpents drawn along the edges. I didn’t know what it meant, so in my curious-little-kid-with-a-huge-imagination-self I conjured up my own meaning, that the map-makers didn’t know what dangers lay beyond the safe boundaries of their maps.

How about that? I was actually pretty close. The cartographers didn’t know what wonders lay beyond their horizons, and used the dragon (or winged serpent) as a metaphor for the pagan world that was beyond their reach.

Kind of like looking at space and seeing little green men. But I digress.

I took this picture outside the Lego store at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA while at a conference. I used my iPhone, and added one of the black and white filters. Did I say the dragon is made entirely of Lego blocks? It’s amazing.

I loved the perspective. The dragon was backlit, and for a moment, I was in my curious-little-kid-with-a-huge-imagination-self that loved reading sci-fi and fantasy.

The dragon looked real, and became real in the picture.  Perspective, as they say, is everything.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned


This week’s photo challenge is abandoned.

That’s a powerful word, something that evokes a sense of despair for me, and so I am loathe to apply it to any persons. Yet here I am, posting this picture that I took on a whim while waiting for a friend to come out of a store.

I’ll never make it as a photo-journalist because I can’t bring myself to take this kind of picture. Yes, I know, I did in fact take this picture, and then post it, but I’m going to confess, it is not without a great deal of discomfort.

Let me explain. I’m not discomfited by the poor, nor the homeless. On the contrary, more and more I find myself drawn to them with more compassion than I’ve had in my whole life up to now. Is it Christ working in me? No doubt, although I do not know to what end.

To the person reading the title of this post and looking only at the photo, the message might be that the person captured in the photo is abandoned. I don’t know this. I do know that the photo is an intrusion…I’ve broken his peace for the sake of an internet game, and I almost didn’t use it after all. But then I got to thinking. This man, while seemingly abandoned by society … Has not been abandoned by God.

Perhaps that’s what my purpose is here, to draw attention to his humanity in spite of my preconceived notions. Because, in failing to see his human dignity, I would be the one abandoning my own humanity.

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual Point of View

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Unusual. Challenge yourself to rethink your ideas about what subjects are appropriate, and then challenge yourself again to find an unusual perspective on your subject.

This picture is a selfie, a reflection of my front yard off the glass storm door. Every time I walk through this way, I adjust the American flag that we fly proudly on our front porch. The wind blows into the corner and tends to catch the flag and flip it once, sometimes twice, around the post before I notice it and straighten it up again.

I do this week after week until it’s time to retire the flag for the Boy Scout Troop at our church, and we put up a new flag.

I don’t think it’s a great picture from an aesthetic point of view. I’ve taken better. In fact, I was playing around with reflections all week trying to come up with today’s post, but I picked this one after I spontaneously posted this #gratefultweet on Twitter:

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I woke up in a reflective mood. It’s been a crazy week with news of war, and in spite of rhetoric, sometimes artfully deceptive, but mostly absurd, I feel no more hopeful than when all of this started. It stings to be talking of war on yet another 9/11 anniversary, one that is now doubled as a reminder of unresolved Benghazi questions.

I was going to let today pass with just some private reflection. Prayer. A visit to the Adoration chapel at the church down the street from where I work.

But then I thought, no. I like this picture; I’ll post it today. I like that the flag, though caught in dim light, it’s color starting to fade, is the focal point. Though everything behind it may seem colorless, you can see I’ve played up the colors in the flag.

I searched for the meaning of those colors and found this explanation:

“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.” from

I like that, and my prayer is that we always exhibit those qualities as a nation.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea


“Sea. What kind of emotions does the sea or ocean make you feel? Do you remember the first time you went in the water? Had a wave crash on you? Felt the sand burn your feet? Do you feel more peaceful around water? Do you hate the beach? What’s the most interesting thing about the sea for you?”

This picture was taken at St. Joe’s Beach, Florida in August. It’s one of my favorite areas, though really, any beach is one of my favorite places. I’ve always loved the beach. I think the beach has loved me back, too. It’s always a source of tranquility and refreshment for me.

My earliest recollection of the ocean is Miami Beach, though my mother has told me stories of going to Varadero Beach in Cuba. I wish I could remember, but even if I did, I would have been too young to enjoy the ocean by swimming out until my feet couldn’t touch the bottom.

I don’t do that anymore although I have plenty of happy memories from the days I’d snorkel at Key Biscayne (El Farito) and scuba diving in Pennekamp Park.

I’ve seen the crystal waters of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico from the beaches of the Yucatan peninsula and the Florida panhandle, enjoyed swimming in the Atlantic Ocean from Key West to Jones Beach in New York, and dipped my toes in the cold waters of New England and across the ocean to the gorgeous, and freezing La Concha in San Sebastian. From there I’ve moved across Spain to Barceloneta and meandered along la Costa Brava and skipped through many beaches in the French Riviera. I’ve seen the beautiful Pacific in Monterey, California and Homer, Alaska.

Of all those beaches my favorite is always the one I happen to be enjoying at the moment. Especially if it’s with this guy:


Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus


“Focus. This week’s challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture.”

There’s a little play on words here. What are you focused on?

Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through Your Eyes

This week’s challenge asks the photographer to examine the shot before framing it in such a way to drive the viewer’s  focus in a certain direction.

I stumbled into the shot by taking a walk through Baltimore on the way to Mass at the Cathedral.

I saw many lovely things along the way, such as this tree, which caught my attention because it was in the midst of so many straight lines, yet it is gnarled and crooked, and apparently thriving in spite of the contrast. It reminded me of the reason for my walk that morning…a straight road before me in spite of my own failings to grow straight.


And yet, I managed to thrive, too, and find a quiet spot to think about these things, and pray.

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It was from this vantage point that I looked up.

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